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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk

    After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.

    "The Syrian air force is not in good shape," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. "It's been worn down by years of combat plus some ... significant maintenance problems."

    Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.

    The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia's S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.

    Additionally, Russia has moved three warships to Syria's coast, further complicating the US's options should it launch another strike.

    US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are "prepared to do more" against Assad's regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.

    Russia S 400 Triumph Missile Systems

    Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that the presence of Russian defenses didn't guarantee the safety of Syria's planes.

    "One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles," Sutyagin said. "They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two ... but what if there are 50 targets?"

    To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.

    f-22 f22 raptor inherent resolve arabian sea

    Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.

    In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it's unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.

    SEE ALSO: Russia and the US seem to be edging closer to war over the Syrian chemical-weapons attack

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike — according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert


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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA in an undated photo. KCNA/via REUTERS

    North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike" after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program.

    US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from its sole major ally, China, and proceeded with nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions.

    Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, did not mince its words.

    "In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only US imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the US mainland and reduce them to ashes," it said.

    Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea, and the United States and has shown no letup in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.

    Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States was "reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang."

    US Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has repeatedly said an "era of strategic patience" with North Korea is over.

    Mike Pence

    House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London that the military option must be part of the pressure.

    "Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilized nations can allow to happen," he said, alluding to Kim.

    Ryan said he was encouraged by the results of efforts to work with China to reduce tensions, but that it was unacceptable that North Korea might be able to strike allies with nuclear weapons.

    North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

    'Max Thunder'

    exercise max thunder south koreaSouth Korea's acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.

    The defense ministry said US and South Korean air forces were conducting an annual training exercise, codenamed Max Thunder, until April 28. North Korea routinely labels such exercises preparations for an invasion.

    "We are conducting a practical and more intensive exercise than ever," South Korean pilot Col. Lee Bum-chul told reporters. "Through this exercise, I am sure we can deter war and remove our enemy's intention to provoke us."

    South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of a US-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, which has angered China.

    On Monday, Hwang and Pence reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the deployment, but the decision will be up to the next South Korean president. China says the system's powerful radar is a threat to its security.

    The North has said it has developed a missile that can strike the mainland United States, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.

    The United States and Russia clashed at the United Nations on Wednesday over a US-drafted Security Council statement to condemn North Korea's latest failed ballistic missile test.

    Diplomats said China had agreed to the statement.

    Such statements by the 15-member council have to be agreed on by consensus.

    FILE PHOTO - A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency.  U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

    Previous statements denouncing missile launches said it "welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue." The latest draft statement dropped "through dialogue," and Russia requested its inclusion.

    "When we requested to restore the agreed language that was of political importance and expressed commitment to continue to work on the draft ... the US delegation without providing any explanations cancelled the work on the draft," the Russian UN mission said in a statement.

    lu kangThe United States cut the words because they "would overly narrow the means by which the international community could arrive at a peaceful and comprehensive solution to the North Korean nuclear problem," it told council members, according to diplomats.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China believed in the Security Council maintaining unity.

    "Speaking with one voice is extremely important to the Security Council appropriately responding to the relevant issue on the peninsula," he told reporters.

    There was confusion over the whereabouts of a US aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he sent an "armada" as a warning to North Korea, even as the ships were far from Korean waters.

    The US military's Pacific Command explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia. It is now heading for the western Pacific as ordered, it said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: People are outraged by this shocking video showing a passenger forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane


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    shtorm

    A Russian state-run media website recently reported that Moscow plans to build the "biggest aircraft carrier in the world" to compete with the US's 11 full-sized Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. 

    The new Russian carrier concept, called the "Shtorm," would match the size of the US's current carriers, displacing about 100,000 tons and carrying a similar number of aircraft, despite the the site's claim that it would be the biggest carrier in the world. 

    Russia currently has only one aircraft carrier, the Soviet-built Admiral Kuznetsov, which after decades in service jsut completed its first combat deployment to Syria, where it struggled to remain operational and lost at least two planes.

    "On the Russian ship's deck there were about 30 planes, while an American aircraft carrier can carry up to 90," a Russian defense official told the site, Russia Beyond The Headlines, comparing the Kuznetsov to US carriers. "Also, the take-off speed on the Admiral Kuznetsov was a few minutes, while on an American aircraft carrier three planes can take off in one minute. Moreover, there are many tasks that the Russian ship cannot perform today. Therefore, Russia needs a new modern aircraft carrier."

    kuznetsov russia navy aircraft carrier

    While Russia does field a "global navy" of an impressive number of ships with potent and long-range offensive capabilities, it sorely lacks the power projection provided by aircraft carriers. The Kuznetsov was built mainly for coastal defense, and without a nuclear power plant, needs considerable support to travel between theaters. 

    Under sanctions for Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and hounded by the low cost of oil, the site admits that Moscow would struggle to fund the carrier project, and even beyond the ship, it would need to build 90 or so planes. 

    While they do have carrier-based planes, like the MiG-29K, the Shtorm concept calls for T-50 planes, Russia's proposed entry into the fifth generation of combat aircraft. The T-50's production, like the Shtorm's, has been plagued with underperforming results while promising big increases to Russia's combat capability.

    Russian PAK FA T-50

    Critics of the T-50 have called it fifth generation "in name only" as it fails to deliver on stealth and advanced avionics like the US F-22 and F-35. 

    Russia previously shopped the Shtorm concept to India, which is looking for a new, larger aircraft carrier as the older Soviet carriers it fields continue to age. 

    SEE ALSO: Syria put its jets under Russian protection, and the US risks all-out war if there's another strike

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    NOW WATCH: Here's what $1 billion worth of cocaine looks like


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    While vacations and travel are ideally tranquil trips that can put a mind at ease, it is important that travelers are constantly aware of their surroundings. This is especially true for hotel security, retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson writes in his book 100 Deadly Skills

    Travelers in "high-risk regions may wish ... to construct additional fortifications" in their hotel rooms as doors and locks can be particularly flimsy, according to Emerson. Additionally, stolen keys and corrupt hotel workers may also provide easy access to the room regardless of the door's strength. 

    As doors remain the number one route of entry into hotel rooms, Emerson encourages travelers to learn the following skills to prevent hotel room invasions while travelers are still in the room lounging, sleeping, or using the bathroom.

    For hotel doors that open outwards into the hallway, travelers should attach a nylon line from the room's doorknob to an immobile position in the hotel room. This could be the leg of the bed or another locked doorknob elsewhere in the room. 

    BI Graphics_How to prevent a hotel room invasion REDO

    For doors that open inwards, travelers have more protection options. One potential option is to wedge doorjambs around the area of the door frame. This would reinforce the entirety of the door against being kicked in. 

    Additionally, security devices can be purchased that prevent a door from swinging inwards. As a last resort, furniture in the hotel room can be piled in front of the hotel room door to create an immovable barricade. 

    Jeremy Bender contributed to an earlier version of this post.

    SEE ALSO: How to pick locks and break padlocks

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    NOW WATCH: 5 safety items you should carry — according to a self-defense expert


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    trump gentiloni press conference italy

    At a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday, Fox News reporter John Roberts asked President Donald Trump about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's mental health.

    "Do you believe that the leader of North Korea is mentally unstable? Is he a man who can be reasoned with?" asked Roberts.

    While Trump didn't address Kim's mental state, he did promise a military buildup.

    "As far as North Korea is concerned, we're in very good shape. We're building our military rapidly," said Trump.

    "I've been here for approximately 91 days. We're doing a lot of work. I can't answer your question on stability. I hope the answer is a positive one, not a negative one," Trump continued.

    The president then shifted to talking about his meeting and understanding with China's president, Xi Jinping, who Trump has repeatedly stressed is a key player in solving the North Korean dilemma.

    "I have great respect for the president of China," Trump said.

    "All of the pundits are saying they never have seen China work like they're working now" to address North Korea, Trump said. The US president later referenced China rejecting routine coal shipments from Pyongyang while North Korea appears on the verge of another nuclear test.

    Without specifying, Trump said "some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours" between China and North Korea.

    "I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very hard" to handle North Korea, Trump said of Xi.

    Trump again stressed that he leveraged the US and China's trade relationship to pressure Xi into doing something about "the menace of North Korea."

    SEE ALSO: North Korea: We will launch 'super-mighty preemptive strike' on US forces, mainland

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    NOW WATCH: Theresa May calls for General Election on June 8


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    special forces

    An Army Magazine article from 1956 was circulating on Twitter recently, and it predicted what the soldier of the future would look like.

    In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.

    The author, Lt. Col. Robert R. Rigg, prophesized that these advancements — from night vision goggles, to helicopter warfare, to drone strikes — would come after 1974. While he was technically correct, many came later than he foresaw.

    Here are 10 pieces of gear the "soldier of the future" has — right now.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what the soldier of the future may look like

    Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.

    "The FutureArmy soldier ... will gain independence and action from an ultra-small radio transmitter and receiver," Rigg wrote. "This transceiver will ... place the individual soldier in communication with all other members of his fighting team."

    Most radios aren't built into helmets, but many soldiers are in constant communication with their squad mates through the use of intra-squad radios. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are typically carrying around small, lightweight radios that offer secure communications.

    Some, like special operations forces, use throat microphones (as the magazine also predicted) that transmit when the operator speaks. 



    Night vision goggles that help troops own the night.

    "The soldier will be able to ... change darkness into day with one flick of a wrist on the infrared dial and switch."

    Night vision was developed in the 1940s, but was not fielded in goggle form until 1977

    Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.



    Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.

    "The individual weapon of the Futurarmy soldier will be an automatic carbine which will replace at least four of today's weapons: the M1 rifle, the carbine, the AR, and the submachine gun."

    The automatic carbine, known as the M16, was first put into service in 1964, and was standard issue by 1969 — five years before Rigg predicted. Though the M16A1 gave soldiers in Vietnam plenty of problems, it's been continuously updated and improved.

    Many soldiers and Marines carry the M4 carbine — a shorter and lighter version of the M-16 — though most are no longer fully-automatic.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    turkey syria

    Two Turkish soldiers died and two more were wounded in a clash with Kurdish militants in a rural area of southeast Turkey near the Iraqi border on Friday, the armed forces said.

    The military later said six militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been "neutralized" in the ensuing operation in the region, which it said was still underway.

    The firefight occurred in the Uludere district of Sirnak province, a military statement said.

    The latest violence followed a week of clashes between the Turkish military and PKK militants in which more than 45 PKK fighters have been killed, state news agency Anadolu said.

    A ceasefire between the Turkish state and the militants broke down in July 2015 and the southeast subsequently saw some of the worst violence since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984.

    More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

     

    SEE ALSO: MATTIS: 'No doubt' Syria still has chemical weapons

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The disturbing reason some people turn red when they drink alcohol


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    china H-6K

    China's Defence Ministry on Friday denied reports that its bomber aircraft were on a heightened state of alert amid tensions over North Korea.

    In a brief statement, the ministry said Chinese forces on the country's border with North Korea maintained a state of normal combat preparedness and training.

    U.S. officials said on Thursday they were aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bomber planes.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea has South Korea and China on edge ahead of a major celebration

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike — according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert


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    A soldier salutes from atop an armoured vehicle as it drives past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files

    South Korea said on Friday it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

    US officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by Beijing, reclusive North Korea's sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons.

    In Russia, a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports that Russia was moving military hardware and troops toward the border with North Korea, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

    US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the United States and China have warned against.

    North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, an important anniversary that comes at the end of major winter military drills, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said.

    Top envoys from the United States, South Korea and Japan on North Korea are due to meet on Tuesday, South Korea's foreign ministry said, to "discuss plans to rein in North Korea's additional high-strength provocations, to maximize pressure on the North, and to ensure China's constructive role in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue".

    South Korea and the United States have also been conducting annual joint military exercises, which the North routinely criticizes as a prelude to invasion.

    Foal Eagle 2015

    "It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-US military drills," Lee told a briefing.

    "We are closely watching the situation and will not be letting our guards down," Lee said.

    US President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea", after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike".

    US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea's rhetoric was provocative but he had learned not to trust it. 

    'Unusual moves'

    U.S. President Donald Trump (L) listens to a question during a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin LamarqueTrump told a news conference "some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours", and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would "try very hard" to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

    Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be. None of the US officials who told Reuters about the heightened level of activity by Chinese bombers suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such activity.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang referred questions about the air force to the Defence Ministry, which has yet to publicly comment.

    Asked about Trump's comment about Xi trying hard, Lu said Xi and Trump had had a full and deep discussion about North Korea when they met this month.

    "I can only say that via deep communications between China and the US at various levels including at the highest levels, the US now has an even fuller and more correct understanding of China's policy and position and has a more rounded understanding of China's efforts. We feel very gratified about this."

    An official Chinese newspaper said there was optimism about persuading the North to end its pursuit of a nuclear program without the use of force, "now that even the once tough-talking Donald Trump is onboard for a peaceful solution".

    "Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington's newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it," the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

    In Russia's Ear East, some media have cited residents as saying they have seen military hardware being moved toward North Korea but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said deployment of Russian troops inside Russia were not a public matter.

    Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile. 

    'Red line'

    Kim Jong Un

    North Korea has said it would test missiles when it sees fit and a South Korean analyst said he believed they would do so.

    "Without crossing the red line such as a nuclear test or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, until the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People's Army, North Korea is expected to continue to launch mid-range missiles," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at Sejong Institute outside Seoul.

    The joint US-South Korea military exercises are due to finish at the end of April.

    A US aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, is heading toward the Korean Peninsula, Trump's administration has said.

    North Korea test-fired what the United States believed was a mid-range missile on Sunday. It blew up almost immediately.

    The failed launch came a day after the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather.

    There is concern the North will use the next big day on its calendar, April 25, to show off its strength.

    "Although North Korea attempted a missile launch but failed on April 16, considering the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People's Army, there are concerns that it can make another provocation again at any time," South Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday.

    He called on the military to maintain readiness.

    SEE ALSO: Trump won't say if Kim Jong Un is mentally stable, but promises military buildup

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Children who eat too much sugar are developing diseases that only alcoholics used to get


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    The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea, April 8, 2017. Photo taken April 8, 2017.  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown/Handout via Reuters

    Although the US on April 8 first signaled the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier would head to the Korean Peninsula, the US Navy has again publicly indicated the carrier is nowhere near its intended destination.

    The Navy said on Friday that a US Navy F/A-18E pilot safely ejected from his plane, with no apparent injuries, in the Celebes Sea, near Indonesia. That's more than 2,400 miles away from Pyongyang, or roughly three days' travel time for the Vinson.

    vinson location"The president said that we have an armada going toward the peninsula," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing on Wednesday, referring to President Donald Trump's statement last week that he was sending an "armada" to North Korea.

    "That's a fact," Spicer said. "It happened. It is happening, rather."

    While the US Navy told Business Insider that the Vinson would eventually head to the Korean Peninsula, the confusion about the timing of events has led some to question the Trump administration's resolve.

    South Korea's conservative candidate for president for its May election, Hong Joon-pyo, told The Wall Street Journal of the carrier mix-up: "What Mr. Trump said was very important for the national security of South Korea. If that was a lie, then during Trump's term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says."

    SEE ALSO: 4 crucial words from Mike Pence have put the US in a tough position against North Korea

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    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains what to do if you're attacked by a shark


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    North Korea military parade

    A close review of photos from North Korea's recent military parade shows that the Kim regime may be closer to building a functional nuclear missile that can threaten the US mainland than previously thought.

    While some experts doubt that all the missile launcher tubes driving around Pyongyang really held missiles or posed a much of a threat, Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, warned of a small but troubling detail on one of the missiles.

    In the picture below, on the right side of the missile, where the cylindrical section meets the nose, the fuselage appears to have been wrapped.

    north korea slbm missile parade

    Here's a closer look:

    north korea filament wrapping missile

    Duitsman told Business Insider in a phone interview that this may be wound filament-reinforced plastic, a very light alternative to metal that can withstand the incredible pressure of rocket motors. Tal Inbar, the head of the space research center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, first pointed this out.

    "Part of the parade is them showing us what they're working on," Duitsman said. "Not stuff that's operational, but stuff they're actively working on. They're showing us their intentions."

    Duitsman said wound filament-reinforced plastic has up to 10 times the strength-to-density ratio of aluminum and could greatly reduce the weight of a missile.

    Referring to the booster portion of the missile as a stage, Duitsman said, "The lighter the stage is, the less propellant you need and the more you can put on top of it." In this case, a lighter missile could be used to carry a nuclear warhead.

    Pukguksong-2 north korea missile

    While it seems like a small detail, Duitsman said that the Soviets and the US made similar breakthroughs when creating their ICBMs. Ultimately, if the North Koreans had advanced composite materials and plastics in this part of their missile design, it would mean they're further along in their program than many experts suspect.

    Though the North Koreans would still face problems in launching and steering the missile, Duitsman said they could begin testing an ICBM that could reach Washington in as little as two or three years.

    SEE ALSO: Syria put its jets under Russian protection, and the US risks all-out war if there's another strike

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike — according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert


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    Moab mother of all bombs afghanistan

    There has been intense media coverage of the US Military’s Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) strike last week in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. Despite estimates of Daesh fatalities, the wider effect of the strike has not yet been reported as access on the ground to the actual strike location has been restricted by the US Military. Now, using high resolution satellite imagery captured 15 hours after the strike, we can begin making assessments of the strike’s impact.

    Moab aftermath

    David Mansfield and Alcis have been studying this remote, troubled valley in Eastern Afghanistan since 2005. Over the coming weeks, we will release a series of reports covering this MOAB strike and the wider context within which this strike has taken place.

    Just after 7.30pm local time, on the 13th April 2017, the United States Military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat, known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB). Post-strike high resolution satellite imagery shows that although the blast did not create a significant crater on the ground, the destruction was absolute of approximately 20 compounds and trees, 650 metres to the southwest of the centre of the village of Asadkhel and close to the villages of Tangai and Lansai Ahmad and 3 kms from Shadal Bazaar.

    These villages sit at the entrance to the Mahmand Valley, in Achin District in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. There are signs of destruction to agriculture and trees in the immediate vicinity of the blast. Damage to compounds and buildings can be observed further from the blast site but it is not clear whether this damage was caused by this particular attack. Damage to buildings and infrastructure within Shadal Bazaar, as reported by the media, is unlikely to have been caused by this blast.

    Achin district, Nangarhar afghanistan

    It is understood that the MOAB weapon explodes approximately six feet above the ground and propels its flame and shock waves horizontally, rather than vertically. The effect is to knock over trees, buildings and other infrastructure, collapse cave entrances and underground facilities and kill, maim or demoralise enemy combatants. Reports indicate that the blast has an effective range of approximately 1 km.

    The aim of last week’s strike was to destroy tunnels and caves currently being used by Daesh militants operating in the area. On the 15th April, Afghanistan’s defence ministry reported the death of 94 militants including 4 major commanders and that no civilians had been killed in the strike [i].

    This strike has received significant media attention. However with no access to the site other than US Military [ii], there is currently very little understanding of the actual impact of the strike. High resolution satellite imagery collected before and after the strike provides immediate insight. Pre-strike imagery is dated 3rd September 2016, just over 7 months before the strike. Post-strike imagery, as shown below, is dated 14th April 2017, the day after the strike. The red box in the image below is 1.5 x 1.5 kms and the white cross within Area 1 represents the estimated impact point, based on the aerial footage of the strike [iii].

    Moab aftermath

    The overall picture of destruction is varied. In the immediate area around the impact point, Area 1, no buildings or structures remain standing and many of the trees and vegetation are destroyed. Analysis of the point of impact can determine little in the way of a crater, despite some media reports suggesting that the crater left by the blast would be more than 300 meters wide [iv].

    Areas 2, 3 and 4 in the image above exhibit signs of destruction to buildings, with some roofs destroyed, but large numbers of buildings remain apparently undamaged. Whilst the damage to compounds in area 1 can be ascribed to the MOAB strike, it is less clear whether the damage to buildings in Areas 2, 3 and 4 were caused by the MOAB strike. Damage in these areas may well have been caused by other aspects of the conflict that has been ongoing in this area between Daesh, the Taliban and subsequently the Afghan government security forces dating back to mid-2015.

    Further afield and 3 km from the point of impact, sits Shadal Bazaar. Given that little damage can be observed in the imagery of buildings within Asadkhel, the village that lies between the point of impact and Shadal Bazaar, it is likely that media reporting of significant damage to Shadal bazar as a consequence of the MAOB strike, are significantly over stated[v]. It is likely the damage at Shadal Bazaar seen in the ground photographs from media reporting pre-date this strike and are a consequence of the conflict that has been ongoing in the area for some time.

    Area 1.

    Most man-made structures observed in the pre-strike image are seen to be destroyed in the post strike image. Trees and scrub appear to be burnt or destroyed in the post the strike image. The distance across each of these images is approximately 375 meters.

    Moab aftermath

    Area 2.

    The approximate distance from the MOAB point of impact to the centre of Area 2 is 500 meters. Some buildings within compounds appear to be destroyed, whilst walls and other structures remain standing. There appears less impact on vegetation compared to Area 1. Note: Given the nature of the remaining buildings, the destruction of the buildings in this area may not necessarily be due to the MOAB strike.

    Moab aftermath

    Area 3.

    The approximate distance from the MOAB point of impact to the centre of Area 3 is 450 meters. Some limited destruction of buildings is visible, less so than Area 2 above and some vegetation shows signs of damage. Note: Given the nature of the remaining buildings, the destruction of the buildings in this area may not necessarily be due to the MOAB strike.

    Moab aftermath

    Area 4.

    The approximate distance from the MOAB point of impact to the centre of Area 4 is 570 meters. Patchy destruction of buildings can be observed, with several showing the loss of roofs. Some damage to trees is evident. Note: Given the nature of the remaining buildings, the destruction of the buildings in this area may not necessarily be due to the MOAB strike.

    Moab aftermath

    This post originally appeared on Alcis.org. Click here to read the original.

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    FILE PHOTO: A North Korean navy truck carries the 'Pukkuksong' submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017.    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

    Sales of nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers have surged inJapan in recent weeks as North Korea has pressed ahead with missile tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

    A small company that specializes in building nuclear shelters, generally under people's houses, has received eight orders in April alone compared with six orders during a typical year.

    The company, Oribe Seiki Seisakusho, based in Kobe, western Japan, also has sold out of 50 Swiss-made air purifiers, which are said to keep out radiation and poisonous gas, and is trying to get more, said Nobuko Oribe, the company's director.

    A purifier designed for six people sells for 620,000 yen ($5,630) and one designed for 13 people and usually installed in a family-use shelter costs 1.7 million yen ($15,440).

    Concerns about a possible gas attack have grown in Japan after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliament session this month that North Korea may have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.

    "It takes time and money to build a shelter. But all we hear these days, in this tense atmosphere, is that they want one now," Oribe said. "They ask us to come right away and give them an estimate."

    Another small company, Earth Shift, based in Shizuoka prefecture, has seen a tenfold increase in inquiries and quotes for its underground shelters, Akira Shiga, a sales manager at the company said. The inquiries began gradually increasing in February and have come from all over Japan, he said. 

    Evacuation drills

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA in an undated photo. 


KCNA/via REUTERS

    North Korean missiles have fired with increasing frequency. Last month, three fell into waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone, some 300-350 kilometers off the coast of northern Akita prefecture.

    The Japanese government on Friday urged local governments to hold evacuation drills in case of a possible missile attack, heightening a sense of urgency among the public.

    Some orders for the shelters were placed by owners of small-sized companies for their employees, and others by families, Oribe said. A nuclear shelter for up to 13 people costs about 25 million yen ($227,210) and takes about four months to build, he said.

    map of china south korea and norht koreaThe shelter his company offers is a reinforced, air-tight basement with an air purifier that can block radiation as well as poisonous gas. The room is designed to withstand a blast even when a Hiroshima-class nuclear bomb exploded just 660 meters away, Oribe said.

    North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension in the region.

    The United States ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the reclusive state's nuclear and missile programmes.

    In Japan's previous experience with sarin gas in 1995, members of a doomsday cult killed 12 people and made thousands ill in attacks on Tokyo subways.

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    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs is alleged to have killed some 8,000 people

    The Hague (AFP) - A Philippine lawyer on Monday filed a complaint at the world's only permanent war crimes court against President Rodrigo Duterte, alleging his war on drugs has caused some 8,000 deaths. 

    Lawyer Jude Sabio urged the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate Duterte and senior administration officials and bring charges of crimes against humanity against them for "the terrifying and gruesome situation of continuing mass murder in the Philippines".

    Sabio, who is the lawyer for Duterte's confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, said the president "began his strategy or system of eliminating or killing persons suspected of crimes, including drug addicts and pushers" when he became mayor of Davao City in 1988.

    "The 'repeated, unchanging and continuous' mass murder being conducted by the President Duterte has already resulted into the deaths of not less than 1,400 individuals in Davao City under his Davao Death Squad and not less than 7,000 individuals in his war on drugs at the national level," the filing said.

    Sabio travelled to The Hague to hand over his complaint in person to the office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

    Philippine drug

    There was no immediate reply from her office to an AFP request for comment, but Bensouda in October issued a strong statement about the alleged killings, warning those responsible could face prosecution.

    "I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the... Philippines seem to condone such killings," she said.

    "Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing... to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable for prosecution before the court." 

    Duterte won election by a landslide last May largely on his promise to launch a war on illegal drugs.

    Although the campaign has proved popular at home, the president has faced international criticism for the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings.

    Police probe under way

     Philippine Army

    The government denies the allegations, and presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Monday that police were already probing those suspected "of violating procedures."

    He also pointed to an investigation by the country's Senate, in which Matobato was a star witness, and said the ICC "as a court of last resort, will only exercise jurisdiction over a case once legal remedies in the Philippines have been exhausted." 

    The so-called 'extrajudicial killings', are not state-sanctioned or state-sponsored. Police authorities are conducting legitimate operations that require observance of operational protocols," Abella added.

    Since it began work in 2002, the ICC says the prosecutor's office has received some 10,000 requests from individuals, groups or countries to investigate alleged crimes. 

    It is then up to the prosecutor to decide if there is enough cause to open a preliminary inquiry into whether a full-blown investigation is then merited. There are currently 10 preliminary examinations, and 10 full investigations under way.

    A total of 23 cases have been dealt with, securing nine convictions and one acquittal. Five trials are ongoing.

    SEE ALSO: Demand for nuclear shelters, air purifiers skyrockets in Japan amid nuclear tensions with North Korea

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    Donald Trump Xi Jinping

    U.S. President Donald Trump criticized North Korea's "continued belligerence" and said its actions were destabilizing in a telephone call on Sunday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the White House said.

    The leaders agreed on the urgency of the threat posed by the North's missile and nuclear programs and committed to coordinate their efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, it said in a statement on Monday.

    "President Trump criticized North Korea's continued belligerence and emphasized that Pyongyang's actions are destabilizing the Korean Peninsula," the White House said. 

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    Trump Xi

    Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint on Monday in a telephone call about North Korea with U.S. President Donald Trump, as Japan conducted exercises with a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.

    Trump sent the carrier group for exercises in waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning, amid growing fears North Korea could conduct another nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

    Angered by the approach of the USS Carl Vinson carrier group, a defiant North Korea said on Monday the deployment was "an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade".

    "The United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act," Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary on Monday.

    "What's only laid for aggressors is dead bodies," the newspaper said.

    Two Japanese destroyers have joined the carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific, and South Korea said on Monday it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

    Worry that North Korea could be preparing to conduct another nuclear test or launch more ballistic missiles has increased as it prepares to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday.

    It has marked similar events in the past with nuclear tests or missile launches.

    Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

    China is North Korea's sole major ally but has been angered by its nuclear and missile programmes and is frustrated by its belligerence.

    china north korea

    China, which has repeatedly called for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, is worried the situation could spin out of control, leading to war and a chaotic collapse of its isolated, impoverished neighbour.

    Trump, in his phone call with Xi, criticised North Korea’s "continued belligerence" and emphasised that its actions "are destabilising the Korean peninsula", the White House said.

    "The two leaders reaffirmed the urgency of the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes, and committed to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," it said.

    Xi told Trump China resolutely opposed any actions that ran counter to U.N. Security Council resolutions, China's foreign ministry said.

    China "hopes that all relevant sides exercise restraint, and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation", the Chinese ministry said in a statement, paraphrasing Xi.

    The call between the presidents was the latest manifestation of their close communication, which was good for their countries and the world, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.

    'Fully ready'

    FILE PHOTO:  A U.S. Navy F18 fighter jet takes off from aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a routine exercise in South China Sea, March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

    U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, speaking on NBC's "Today" programme, said the United States and the international community were maintaining pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but were "not trying to pick a fight with him".

    Asked whether a preemptive strike was under consideration, she said: "We are not going to do anything unless he gives us reason to do something."

    "If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we're going to do that. But right now, we're saying 'don't test, don't use nuclear missiles, don't try and do any more actions', and I think he's understanding that. And China's helping really put that pressure on him."

    Trump also spoke by telephone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    "We agreed to strongly demand that North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint," Abe later told reporters. "We will maintain close contact with the United States, keep a high level of vigilance and respond firmly."

    A Japanese official said the phone call between Trump and Abe was not prompted by any specific change in the situation.

    trump abe

    Envoys on the North Korean nuclear issue from the United States, South Korea and Japan are due to meet in Tokyo on Tuesday.

    The U.S. government has not specified where the carrier strike group is but U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive "within days".

    South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun gave no details about the South's plan to join the U.S. carrier group for exercises, apart from saying Seoul was holding discussions with the U.S. Navy.

    "The South Korean and U.S. militaries are fully ready for North Korea's nuclear test," Moon said.

    South Korean and U.S. officials have feared for some time that North Korea's sixth nuclear test could be imminent.

    Satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site last week.

    However, the group said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" before another test or was carrying out normal operations.

    Adding to the tension, North Korea detained a U.S. citizen on Saturday as he attempted to leave the country.

    SEE ALSO: A tiny detail from North Korea's military parade may show how close it is to long-range nukes

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    Kim Jong Un

    North Korea marks the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday, and South Korea and its allies are bracing for the possibility that it could conduct another nuclear test or launch an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

    North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying its military capability. It so far has carried out five nuclear tests.

    Such a move could test the developing North Korea policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has reportedly settled on a strategy that emphasizes increased pressure on North Korea with the help of China, the North's only major ally, instead of military options or trying to overthrow North Korea's government.

    Trump spoke by phone with both the Japanese and Chinese leaders Monday. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV quoted President Xi Jinping as telling Trump that China strongly opposes North Korea's nuclear weapons program and hopes "all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation."

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from what Abe called provocative actions. "The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the international community but also our country," the Japanese leader told reporters in Tokyo afterward.

    Recent U.S. commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea's nuclear test site, and third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un has said the country's preparation for an ICBM launch is in its "final stage."

    South Korea's Defense Ministry has said North Korea appears ready to conduct such "strategic provocations" at any time. South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the country's acting leader in place of ousted President Park Geun-hye, who has been arrested over corruption allegations, has instructed his military to strengthen its "immediate response posture" in case North Korea does something significant on Tuesday's anniversary.

    FILE PHOTO: A North Korean navy truck carries the 'Pukkuksong' submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017.    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

    There is also a possibility that North Korea, facing potential changes in regional dynamics as Washington presses Beijing to pressure North Korea more aggressively, opts to mark the anniversary with a missile launch of lesser magnitude. North Korea separately fired what U.S. officials said were a Scud-type missile and a midrange missile earlier this month, but the launches were analyzed as failures.

    While the U.S. has dispatched what Trump called an "armada" of ships to the region, including an aircraft carrier, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the administration doesn't intend to militarily respond to a North Korean nuclear or missile test. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday that South Korean naval ships will conduct a training exercise with the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.

    In a statement released late Friday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry accused Trump of driving the region into an "extremely dangerous phase" with the dispatch of the aircraft carrier and said the North was ready to stand up against any threat posed by the United States.

    With typical rhetorical flourish, the ministry said North Korea "will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists."

    A man walks in front of portraits of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017.    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

    Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a U.S. citizen on Saturday, bringing the number of Americans being held there to three. The reasons for the detention of Tony Kim, who taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, weren't immediately clear.

    Under Kim's leadership, North Korea has been aggressively pursuing a decades-long goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

    Last year, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests, which would have improved its knowledge in making nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles. It also launched a long-range rocket last year that delivered a satellite into orbit, which Washington, Seoul and others saw as a banned test of missile technology.

    On April 15, North Korea offered a look at its advancing nuclear weapon and missile programs in a massive military parade in Pyongyang honoring late state founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current ruler.

    The displayed military hardware included prototype ICBMs and new midrange solid-fuel missiles that can be fired from land mobile launchers and submarines, making them harder to detect before launch.

    Pukguksong-2 north korea missile

    The parade also featured previously unseen large rocket canisters and transporter erector launcher trucks, or TELs. This indicated that North Korea is developing technologies to "cold-launch" ICBMs, ejecting them from the launch tubes before they ignite in midair, which would prevent its limited number of ICBM-capable launcher trucks from being damaged and also allow the missiles to be fired from silos.

    Analysts say North Korea is also likely developing solid-fuel ICBMs, and that some of the canisters might have contained prototypes.

    North Korea had earlier shown signs it was working on a new ICBM.

    In March, North Korean state media reported that the country successfully conducted a ground test of a new high-thrust rocket engine, which it said was a breakthrough for its space program and efforts to create "Korean-style strategic weapons." Kim was quoted as saying "the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries."

    While North Korea almost certainly needs more time to create a solid-fuel ICBM, test launches for its existing liquid-fuel ICBMs, including KN-08s and KN-14s, could come much sooner.

    Experts say these missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although North Korea has yet to flight test them.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea has detained a US citizen — the 3rd American now held there

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    An honor guard opens the door as Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) enters a hall to attend a meeting with members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov/Pool/File Photo

    Russian state news organization Rossiya Segodnya said on Friday it objected to a Reuters article it said had falsely claimed that Kremlin-backed media had tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

    A Reuters spokesperson said the news agency stood by the story which reported exclusively on April 19 that a Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin had developed a plan to swing the election in favor of Donald Trump by getting several state-backed media outlets to produce positive reports on Trump.

    Three current and four former U.S. officials said Kremlin-backed TV channel RT and the Sputnik news agency were among state-backed news outlets which the Kremlin had instructed to weigh in on Trump's side and to try to undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system.

    Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya and RT criticized the Reuters story on social media on Friday. She linked to an article by the RIA news agency, which along with Sputnik, is owned by Rossiya Segodnya.

    RIA quoted Simonyan as saying: "Reuters writes that it knows of seven guys who swear that they have seen a secret Russian report with their own eyes. Or even two reports. Give Reuters an Oscar for best screen play, they've earned it."

    Simonyan did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for further comment sent via RT after business hours in Moscow.

    Separately, an RT spokesman in London said Reuters had erroneously stated that RT had not responded to a pre-publication request for comment. The Reuters spokesperson said the agency did send an email requesting comment. The RT spokesman said it was sent to the wrong email address.

    Donald Trump Vladimir Putin

    In addition, Simonyan said that Rossiya Segodnya would not now sign a contract with Reuters to buy video footage "because they lie."

    An agreement for Reuters to supply Rossiya Segodnya with video footage from May 1 had already been agreed, but would not now be signed, RIA reported.

    When asked to comment on the matter, the Reuters spokesperson said Reuters did not discuss clients or the terms of their contracts.

    Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. intelligence allegations that it tried to meddle in the U.S. election, saying it is the victim of an organized anti-Russian campaign designed to ensure that Trump will find it impossible to repair relations with Moscow, which are languishing at a post Cold War low.

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    donald trump

    Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea, senior Senate aides said on Monday.

    All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the aides said.

    While top administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy and national security matters, it is unusual for the entire 100-member Senate to go to such an event at the White House, and for those four top officials to be involved.

    U.S. officials have expressed mounting concern over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

    President Donald Trump criticized North Korea's "continued belligerence" and said its actions were destabilizing during a telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, the White House said.

    The briefing will take place at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT).

    House aides said they were working with the White House to set a similar briefing for members of the House of Representatives.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump looks on prior to signing financial services executive orders at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    The Trump administration will issue new sanctions against Syria as early as Monday as part of its ongoing crackdown on the Syrian government and those who support it.

    Three US officials said that the sanctions are part of a broader effort to cut off funding and other support to Syria's President Bashar Assad and his government amid the country's escalating civil war.

    The US blames Assad for a recent chemical attack on Syrian civilians, and responded earlier this month by launching missiles against a Syrian airfield.

    One official said the sanctions will primarily target weapons manufacturers believed to aid Assad's use of chemical weapons.

    The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly.

    Trump has called Assad "evil" and said his use of chemical weapons "crossed a lot of lines."

    The US has gradually been expanding its sanctions program against Syria since 2004, when it issued sanctions targeting Syria for a range of offenses, including its support of terrorism, as well as its occupation of Lebanon, efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

    More recently, sanctions were expanded in connection with its civil war, now in its sixth year, to target offenses linked to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses.

    Current Syria sanctions seek to block the property and interests in property of the Syrian government from receiving funding and support.

    aleppo syria

    The US has also issued sanctions for foreign individuals or companies that support Assad's government. A number of Iranian entities have been penalized for supporting the Syrian government or fighters working to undermine peace in Syria.

    While Moscow and Washington are continuously at odds over Syria, the US has not imposed any Syria-related sanctions on Russia.

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